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Earth Day Turns 38.

With the arrival of another Earth Day, our team paused to ask, “What are we doing to care for the environment?” Top of mind for many of us was biking to work or taking the bus. (And yes, some of us are even tough enough to bike in the winter!) We also thought about how our space uses abundant natural light and how we grow plants on our rooftop patio.

Of course, our eco-conscious mindset extends far beyond the office. And that’s the case for many of today’s consumers. Sixty-six percent of global respondents say they’re willing to pay more for products from sustainable companies. And they’re influenced by a variety of sustainability factors:1

  • A product being made from fresh, natural and/or organic ingredients – 69 percent
  • A company being environmentally friendly – 58 percent
  • A company being known for its commitment to social value – 56 percent

So how can companies – even those that aren’t actually creating products – make sustainability part of their everyday decisions? We explore one answer, how to make print projects green, in our Sustainability Insight. Download it for a handy checklist that provides tips from limiting ink coverage to avoiding the need for adhesives.

  1. Nielsen. Tracking Tactics: Sustainability Practices That Lead to Sales. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/tracking-tactics-sustainability-practices-that-lead-to-sales.html.

| Research

Food & tech – Big shifts happen when giants meet.

Technology brings constant change to our lives, adding convenience to how we heat our homes, shop for household items, and watch TV and movies. Now pioneering companies are courting an even greater part of our daily lives: food.

Food and technology are massive industries and, in coming together, form FoodTech: a new, expanding global market that’s expected to reach $250 billion by 2022. From creating new means of food delivery and consumption to bringing chefs right into consumers’ homes, the world of food is being made increasingly accessible.

While this union brings continual change to our tech-laden, food-loving lives, the financial opportunity brought forth by the growing health, nutrition and foodie culture may be here to stay. Yet it’s not just the need for convenience driving these innovations. Many FoodTech companies position themselves as trying to solve the inefficiency of current food systems, bringing food politics and sustainability trends into this hybrid industry as they invent meat-free alternatives, enable farm-to-home sales or look for ways to offer convenient meal kits without using disposable packaging.

Check out our report on FoodTech to learn more about this fascinating growing market and the consumer trends influencing it. Visit our Insight Library to download the full report.

| Research

Growing Pains: Rising Health Care Premiums and Rising Stars.

This article is the first of Fusion Hill’s new Insights Library. Join us as we track major trends in our clients’ key industries. All Insights Library articles can be accessed here.

With health care premiums in the United States increasing at a faster rate than income, some employers have started looking into alternatives. They’re growing increasingly dissatisfied with the current health care options available to their employees; at the same time, health care institutions are becoming frustrated with new contenders entering their market. While this phenomenon isn’t new, three leading companies – Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase – recently gained attention when they announced their plans to collaborate on the design and implementation of a new health care service for their U.S. employees.

Current Details

As the endeavor was announced only recently, it’s unclear how these companies will accomplish such a tremendous feat and what this process will entail. The New York Times reported, “The companies said the initiative, which is in its early stages, would be ‘free from profit-making incentives and constraints,’ but did not specify whether that meant they would create a nonprofit organization. The tax implications were also unclear because so few details were released.”1 In the past, other large companies, such as Walmart and Caterpillar, have tried designing an internal health care system, but this will be the first time three industry giants have worked together on such an undertaking.

Potential Obstacles

Some health care industry leaders look upon this project with skepticism, referencing past failures, whereas some business analysts claim that the demonstrable impact each of these companies has in its respective industry suggests this project will have a substantial effect. The New York Times noted, “[The] announcement landed like a thunderclap, sending stocks for insurers and other major health companies tumbling. Shares of health care companies like UnitedHealth Group and Anthem plunged, dragging down the broader stock market.”1 Another aspect of this project that has been met with skepticism is the process of merging, but as the traditionally separate institutions within the health care industry – such as pharmacies, insurance vendors and medical practitioners – merge their practices and platforms, such processes appear increasingly realistic. Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase hope to imitate these collaborative initiatives and use their influence to its fullest extent.

If successful, the three companies may expand their services beyond their employees and to the general public.

Implications for Insurance Companies

Based on Fusion Hill’s experience working on branding, marketing and research projects in the health care space, our suggestions for those in the health care industry include:

  • Keep an eye on it: First and foremost, make sure to follow industry news to stay up to date with how this situation progresses, as any success or failure will have wide-reaching impacts on the health care industry as a whole. This is a fascinating case study on a brand-new model of health care, and much can be learned from watching what happens.
  • Reflect on tensions: This project was born out of major employers’ rising frustrations with increasing insurance premiums and a lack of flexible options. For future development and communication, brainstorm ways that your company could acknowledge and help alleviate these frustrations.
  • Emulate successes: As this project comes to fruition, analyze ways in which it is successful and why, and consider incorporating elements of the project into your company’s offerings.
  • Learn from failures: Likewise, spend time investigating any failures this project experiences in order to learn precisely what doesn’t work about this model for future development.
  1. New York Times. Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Team Up to Try to Disrupt Health Care. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/technology/amazon-berkshire-hathaway-jpmorgan-health-care.html?emc=edit_na_20180130&nl=breaking-news&nlid=58144303&ref=cta. Accessed March 29, 2018.

| Research

Inclusion-led design: The true power of empathy.

Returning for a second year, members from the creative and research teams touched down in Austin, Texas, ready to be swept up in the whirlwind that is South by Southwest (SXSW). This year promised sessions on power and bias in design, the impact of online communities on our health, and vulnerability in the workplace. Sprinkled throughout downtown Austin were pop-up experiences that included an interactive Google Assistant smart house, a look at Panasonic’s line of inspired wearables and even an immersive (and utterly sold-out) Westworld-themed experience.

While session topics at times felt highly specific or futuristic, the team witnessed an overarching trend of emphasized human involvement and experience in the big ideas. Themes of social responsibility, confrontation, and approaching product and service design in a holistic manner are the new table stakes of this era.

Social responsibility

The need for more-inclusive products and designs has prompted a shift in how companies speak to and about their users. One session took a look at the recent update to the Planned Parenthood health care app Spot On, which involved working to remove all gendered language to craft more-inclusive spaces for a multitude of users.

We also saw a rise in conversations around empathy versus responsibility and how anthropologists, designers and problem solvers alike often wrestle with this tension in an effort to involve multiple stakeholders as a way of looking at total impact. In a session led by Carissa Carter, professor and director of teaching and learning at the Stanford d.school, we explored how to look “beyond the design process” and live in moments of ambiguity and fluidity when there are multiple paths forward.


SXSW speakers George Aye, co-founder and director of the Greater Good Studio, and Melis Senova, founder and CEO of Huddle, took on a difficult subject in their talks: Aye addressed how we acknowledge power and privilege by confronting the modern design process, while Senova spoke about what it looks like to design for representation. Aye spoke to the intention behind the process and the importance of asking ourselves “should we” rather than “can we” when looking at prospective projects, as well as how saying “yes” to a project or client defines your portfolio, while saying “no” defines your reputation. Taking a similar stance, Senova advocates for looking at the shadow side of design and what it means in terms of mapping out products and services that choose to confront all sides of a human experience rather than just viewing it through an aspirational lens.

Holistic approach

When considering how to best represent users and their needs, the health care sector is also looking at how to involve community members and ordinary consumers from the ground up. In a conversation about health equity, representatives from the Kellogg Foundation, the Advisory Board and the BUILD Health Challenge discussed their efforts to involve community members not just as participants in research, but as representatives from all levels of their organizations – including as board members. The same kind of inclusion is a key focus at Project Baseline, a partnership between Google, Duke and Stanford that aims to collect and analyze the health data of over 10,000 people. This entails not just giving patients access to the results of clinical trials they participate in, but also involving them in defining the problem and setting the agenda of the research itself.

| Research

QUAL360 Findings: Evolve and Transform.

In a world where online polls and surveys are ubiquitous – from news sources, travel companies, clothing brands and far more – “data” can seem like a fast (and sometimes even free) solution. Yet the quantitative research field isn’t the only one that’s evolving. Those of us in qualitative research are continually looking for new ways to uncover and share the important nuggets that matter to clients. That search led us to Qual360 in Washington, D.C., where we joined other leaders in the field to share ideas about the latest trends and innovations in the world of qualitative research. Here are some of our biggest takeaways:

The qual vs. quant battle has finally come to an end

For many years, qualitative researchers have expressed concern about their role in a world where big data has been on the rise. This year, however, the mood was one of relief and motivation. More and more businesses appear to understand the complementary value of both quantitative and qualitative research. While quantitative research can provide scale, qualitative provides the deep insights and rich context vital to truly understanding those findings and confidently making strategic business decisions.

Companies are moving faster than ever, and so are their research needs

As companies have increased pressure to accomplish goals on a tighter timeline, qualitative researchers are feeling pressure to increase the momentum of the research process. In response, they’re finding new ways to deliver insights quickly without losing analytical quality. Daily field updates and topline reports that summarize major findings are just two ways we deliver insights more efficiently. Of course, we still provide a final report that includes the rich detail and contextual information necessary for true understanding.

 Man vs. machine: The role of the researcher is evolving as tech takes over

Observing how technology is taking over more and more labor from humans, qualitative researchers wonder how their roles might evolve over time – or if they will even have a role at all in the future. At Qual360, many felt that the human researcher will always be needed in some capacity. When asked to describe qualitative research, researchers said it is “messy,” is “fuzzy,” “requires incredible amounts of empathy,” “is more art than science” and “is all about storytelling.” Various speakers argued that the qualitative researcher’s role in this messy realm is that of a “cultural navigator and contextual interpreter,” or the person who seeks to answer the question “why?” They argued that while machines may be able to help with part of the research process, the work of empathy would always require human involvement.

Let’s keep the conversation going

Connect with Fusion Hill to learn more about our approach to qualitative research and how we’re continually evolving it – from finding new activities for co-creation sessions to designing impactful, interactive new deliverables.

| Culture, Research

2018 Design Trends.

While others might be wondering what clothing styles will be hot this year, our creative team has its sights on design trends. As always, we’re keeping on top of color, typography, patterns, photography and illustration styles – and figuring out that fine line between short-term fads and impactful trends. Here’s what we’ve seen stand out so far for the year ahead.


In 2018, we see the return of a trend called Memphis Design, which celebrates loud colors and patterns reminiscent of those in the 1980s and ’90s, dynamic type and breaking the grid. Co-existing with this trend, we see the continuation of confident and, at times, clashing color palettes as well as the use of duotones and gradients. Sturdy serif and extra-bold extended sans fonts have returned in both web and print design. Keep your eyes on brands like eBay, Spotify and Dropbox, and you’ll see these trends in action.

Potential uses (color):

  • Daring color palettes to garner attention and stand out from competitors
  • Gradient overlays or duotone photography treatments for hero images
  • Vibrant background color floods to keep viewers visually engaged

Potential uses (type):

  • Oversized headlines or key words to grab viewers’ attention
  • Multi-layered type hierarchy with special attention given to supporting text
  • Intermixing serif and sans serif typefaces for dynamic structure

Potential uses (grid):

  • Integration of uneven and asymmetric column widths
  • Unbalanced placement of visuals for visual push and pull
  • Increased white space to emphasize unbalanced grid


Authentic photography is here to stay as cheesy stock photos continue to be shunned by society. We’ve seen a surge in the use of custom illustrations often interacting with photos or type to create dynamic and unique layouts. We’ve also seen designers continue to embrace and push the “destroyed” look and the art of creating through chaos. 2018 is the year of “more is more” as layered, split and glitch-y looks continue to reign.

Potential uses:

  • Reflect changing environments with diverse and captivating visuals
  • Add a hint of playfulness with illustration
  • Utilize original photography to capture key demographics


Storytelling will continue to be a strong trend in 2018. The evolution of the GIF, micro-interactions and animations continues to delight audiences while enriching a brand’s story. Custom hero videos on websites draw attention, and responsive sites and images carve out the trailblazers.

Potential uses:

  • Enrich simple content with energetic, interactive visuals
  • Craft an experience that fosters engagement by charming the viewer with surprising design elements
  • Embrace whimsy through playful interactive sequences

Let’s keep the conversation going.

Connect with Fusion Hill to explore how the latest design trends could freshen up your brand. And in the meantime, visit our Insights Library.

| Creative


After a memorable experience last year at Open Arms of Minnesota, we chose to again spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day helping bring nutritious meals to people struggling with life-threatening illnesses.

Along with delivering, this year we also assembled a kitchen crew, which allowed us to experience both sides of this 31-year-old organization. In just one day, we packaged 467 meals and delivered 372 meals.

We’re grateful for the experience and for a work culture that encourages community involvement – collectively and as individuals. To find out more about this great organization, visit Open Arms of Minnesota. And to check out some of the photos from the day, go to our Facebook page.

| Culture

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